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by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m a bit nervous about moving into a condo and we’re expecting to receive the condominium disclosure documents (resale package) soon. I’ve heard these are pretty large packages. What sort of information can we expect to get and what should we pay the most attention to?

Answer: Fear of condos is real! Last week I had a client tell me he’d been warned against buying a condo because the Board can raise fees whenever and however much they want. First, keep in mind that the Board is made up of your neighbors who also have a vested interest in keeping payments low and the community in good health. Second, this is why the condo document review period is a critical step in the purchase process.

Your Rights As A Buyer

You have a non-negotiable right in Virginia (also in D.C. and Maryland) to receive a Condominium or Property Owners’ Association Disclosure Package (aka Condo Docs or Resale Package) if you are purchasing property that’s part of an Association such as condo ownership or Homeowners’ Association.

These documents can be provided to you as soon as you go under contract (ratification). You’ll want to start your review ASAP because you have three days from receipt to void the contract for any reason, without risking your Earnest Money Deposit.

What You’ll Get

The official list of required documents and statements in a condo resale package can be found here. It includes critical information like the by-laws, budget, rules & regulations, monthly or special assessments, reserve study, proof of insurance, pending lawsuits, unit violations, rental caps and much more.

What To Review

Your purchase binds you to every rule, penalty, and fee detailed in the condo docs so you should take the time to read everything. Is Fido 70 lbs and your new building restricts pets over 25 lbs? Brutal. Spent $1,500 on a fancy new grill in a community that restricts open flames? Craigslist will take it for $400. If reading 300 pages isn’t your thing, here are some of the most important things to check:

  • Monthly/Special Assessments: Confirm they’re as marketed
  • Budget: Make sure expenses seem reasonable and look for any debt payments (ask questions if you find them)
  • Reserve Study: Condos should be inspected every five years with a resulting report (Reserve Study) of projected replacement and maintenance costs compared to projected/recommended reserve fund balances over the next 30 years. Find the financial summary to see if there are any projected shortfalls and cross-reference the current reserve fund balance with the projected and/or recommended reserve fund balance.
  • By-laws/Rules: If you have a pet, plan to rent, or anything else important to you, verify the by-laws and rules meet expectations
  • Meeting Minutes: Review the latest meeting minutes for any discussion of major expenditures/issues

Sellers should try to produce the resale package as quickly as possible because of the Buyer’s ability to void the contract within three days of receipt. As a Seller, the last thing you want is to delay the delivery of the package for weeks and watch your Buyer walk away close to the settlement date. In Virginia, Associations have 14 days to deliver the resale package from the date of request, although most turn it around in a few days.

Have a question about something you found in your condo or HOA disclosure package? Feel free to send me an email ([email protected]) or give me a call (703-539-2529) for help!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 8, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We are ready to move into a house we’ll raise our family in and are set on Arlington. We want a newer home, but are not sure if it’s better to buy new construction or resale; our decision will ultimately be a financial one.

Can you put together numbers that show how the sale prices of new construction compare to resale?

Answer: Of course I can! When weighing the financial decision of new construction vs. resale, you’ll also want to consider the replacement cost of major systems like HVAC, windows, roof, water heater, appliances, etc. that carry life cycles of 10-30 years (appliances being on the early side, roof/windows coming later) as well as higher efficiency factors of new homes that significantly reduce utility costs. Many new homes also come with extended “bumper-to-bumper” warranties that you won’t get in resale.

As expected, there’s a clear premium to be paid for new construction and buyers tend to negotiate a deeper discount from the original asking price on homes being resold. The dataset is based on sales since January 1, 2014 for detached homes built since 2000 with 4-6 bedrooms, 3-5 bathrooms, and 3-4 levels.

Are these numbers in-line with what you expect to see on the difference in sold price between new construction and resale? Are the prices about what you assumed for new/newish homes by zip code?

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor August 1, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Where is it? Clarendon is probably the most recognizable, well-known neighborhood in Arlington. Those outside of Arlington often refer to the entire Rosslyn-Ballston corridor as Clarendon.

Technically it is bound by Wilson Blvd to the north, 10th St N. to the south, Washington Blvd to the west, and N. Danville Street to the east (eastern border is based on the boundaries of the Clarendon Sector Plan).

Clarendon is known for its lively dining and retail scene, along with being host to a popular chains like an Apple Store and Whole Foods, where the parking line regularly overflows into the street.

From rooftop bars, numerous restaurants and high-end retail, Clarendon attracts people of all ages to its massive condo and apartment complexes, as well as droves of patrons from outside the neighborhood. Depending on your preference for entertainment, it’s either the place to be or the place to avoid on Saturday nights. The neighborhood is built around the Clarendon Metro station, which is located on the Orange and Silver lines.

About the interviewee: Tim Donaldson moved to Clarendon in 2014 after spending eight years in Los Angeles, and chose the area because it provides the walkability of a city, but he can hop in his truck any time and quickly be on the highway, which he can’t do from D.C.

He started as a renter in The Phoenix, a popular condo building at 1020 N. Highland Street, and loved it enough to buy a two-bedroom condo after one year. He loves the amenities, and chose to buy because of how well run it is due to the long tenure of its staff.

What do you love about Clarendon?

I love the balance of being able to walk to everything, but not having to fight through city traffic to get to a highway, which I do often for work and to fish. It’s a big city lifestyle, but more laid back. You also have the convenience and familiarity of successful chains like Whole Foods, Starbucks, Cheesecake Factory and Lululemon, but also some great non-chain places for music and craft beer/wine. I’m sad the record store closed!

Where do you shop, eat, and hang out?

My wife and I have a long list of favorites all within a few blocks. Green Pig Bistro is our date night spot, we’re regulars at Lyon Hall, I go to Fireworks for their great beer menu, Galaxy Hut for awesome music, Ambar’s all-you-can-eat is the best deal around, Texas Jacks BBQ is second to none (I agree), love the classics like Liberty Tavern and Bonchon, and the new Spirit of 76 is a cool, cozy bar! We love being able to walk to Whole Foods or Trader Joes for groceries.

Do you take advantage of nearby parks and trails?

I take weekly walks at Potomac Overlook and Zachary Taylor parks and love biking the WO&D, Four Mile Run, and Mount Vernon trails. I know there are parks closer by, but I love hiking and biking those areas.

How has your overall experience been in Clarendon?

Very positive! I’d love to be able to buy a single-family home in Lyon Park (adjacent neighborhood) so I can stay close to Clarendon. People mostly associate Clarendon with weekend partying, but it’s an incredible community with an art show, crafts fair, and bike race during the year. Most of the businesses put out water bowls for dogs in the summer and there’s always families out pushing kids in strollers, which gives the whole neighborhood a feel of closeness that I love being part of.

Thank you so much for your interview Tim! I’m sure this will help people considering a move into or within Arlington who are looking for a vibrant, walkable community like you described.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How accurate and reliable are online home value estimates like Zestimates (Zillow) and Redfin Estimates? My neighbor used his Zestimate to determine the asking price of his home. Can I trust that number?

Answer: Online estimates, like Zestimates and Redfin Estimates, are similar to doing a Rough Order of Magnitude estimate on a project, meaning it’s a good way to quickly determine approximate value. I suggest that clients only trust Zestimates/Redfin Estimates within +/- 10 percent of the value it provides.

In fact, I think that it’s irresponsible for Zestimates and other online estimates to be listed so prominently on their respective sites without an obvious disclaimer (readers must click for a short disclaimer). The fact that it’s a single number, down to the dollar, not a range or rounded falsely suggests it is highly accurate.

Why It’s Wrong

Zestimates, Redfin Estimates and other online estimates rely on public information like square footage, lot size, number of bedrooms, year built, tax appraisal (inaccurate), etc. and past sales in the area, but have no way of knowing details that drive true market value like quality of lot, natural light exposure, curb appeal, and age of major systems like appliances, roof and windows.

These details are critical to determining the actual market value and cannot be priced in without a full inspection of the home and understanding of their influence on local sales. In fact, there’s currently a lawsuit filed against Zillow for inaccurate Zestimates.

Zillow Admits Inaccuracies, Worse In Arlington

Zillow itself acknowledges that its Zestimates are inaccurate, stating that it has a median error rate of 5 percent (I’m sure the average error rate is much higher), only 53.9 percent of estimates are within 5 percent of the sale price, and only 75.6 percent are within 10 percent of the sale price. These last two stats are probably median error rates, with even worse error rates if you look at averages.

Further, because they’re national stats, they benefit from the large number of communities around the country that are full of nearly identical homes. When housing inventory is homogenous and there’s little variation in pricing by neighborhood (common in much of the country, not in Arlington), it’s much easier for online estimates to be accurate. I’m sure that the margin of error in Arlington and Northern Virginia is worse than the national numbers.

Comparing Popular Online Estimates

Industry spends a lot of money developing these estimate tools, so let’s take a look at how some of the most popular sites for estimates compare to each other. I’ve chosen to compare estimates on a few randomly selected properties in different sub-markets from Zillow, Redfin, and REALTORS Property Resource (RPR, created by the National Association of REALTORS for agents).

Note: there’s less variation between estimates on properties recently sold (recent sale price factors heavily) and listed properties (asking price factors into estimate formulas). Estimates below are rounded to nearest $1,000.

Listed Properties:

  • Crystal City, condo: Zillow ($376,000), Redfin ($418,000), RPR ($395,000)
  • Fairlington/Shirlington, condo: Zillow ($384,000), Redfin ($429,000), RPR ($231,000)
  • Rosslyn-area, townhouse: Zillow ($957,000), Redfin ($818,000), RPR (unavailable)
  • Donaldson Run, single family home: Zillow ($1,063,000), Redfin ($1,175,000), RPR ($1,125,000)

Unlisted Property (no recent sale):

  • Lyon Village, single family home: Zillow ($3,465,000), Redfin ($1,821,000), RPR ($2,751,000)

How To Price Your Home

With unreliable estimates from online tools and limited or no access to data on sales from 12+ months, it’s difficult for homeowners or anybody without access to your home and historical data to accurately determine the market value of your home. I frequently start with sales dating back 5 years when I price a home in order to capture true market data and trends, as 6-12 months simply isn’t enough in most cases.

If you want historical data on comparable or neighborhood sales for your home or would like an opinion on the market value of your home, shoot me an email at [email protected] or give me a call at (703) 539-2529 and I’ll be happy to help.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at www.EliResidential.com. Call me directly at (703) 539-2529.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How did Arlington real estate do in the first half of 2017?

Answer: Market indicators at the beginning of the year were very strong. Spring purchase activity picked up earlier than usual in 2017 and all services providers I spoke to (contractors, landscapers, lender, title companies, etc) all said business was thriving.

Now that we’ve made it through the first half of the year, let’s take a look at some key market indicators I like to use to determine how we’re doing relative to years past.

As usual, you’ll see some familiar customized stats from my previous posts:

  • Avg Net Close: This is sale price less any seller credits for the “true” sold price
  • Avg Discount from Org and Last List: One of my favorites — this is how much of a discount buyers negotiated from the original and last asking prices. A good indicator of who holds the most leverage in the market. 100% = buyer paid full price
  • Avg Days on Mrkt: How long it took for the seller to ratify a contract to sell, from the date they listed it for sale. A good indicator of the speed of the market and demand
  • Months of Supply (chart): Economists will say that a balanced market has six months of supply. Anything below favors sellers and anything above favors buyers

Highlights

  • Arlington real estate prices are noticeably higher in most market segments, except apartments/condos (and in zip codes dominated by condo sales) where prices continue to stagnate
  • Nearly all markets show signs of upward pressure on prices with lower days on market and smaller discounts from original and last asking price
  • Average net sold price of detached (single-family) homes is way up, which is influenced by more sales of expensive new construction and off-market sales of cheaper tear-downs not showing up in the stats. However, it’s primarily due the overall market for detached homes picking up, as seen by strong numbers in zip codes with few new construction sales

With that, I’ll let you smart folks dig into the two tables and one chart yourselves and draw your own conclusions. Feel free to reach out to discuss anything you’re seeing, ask for more granular data for your home/neighborhood, or for help interpreting the data.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 11, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m cheating a bit here and answering my own question this week. I come across so many agents representing buyers and sellers who I don’t recognize that I wanted to know just how many agents have handled a real estate transaction in Arlington over the last couple of years. So Eli, how many real estate agents are there operating in Arlington?

Answer: Like it or not, the residential real estate profession has one of the lowest barriers to entry of any industry. While there are a lot of great agents out there, dedicated to their profession and delivering real value to their clients, it’s easy for just about anybody with a couple of months to study and a few hundred dollars to represent you in a real estate transaction.

That’s why it’s important to ask your agent if they’re full-time or part-time, how much business they do, and about their professional background.

A Lot Of Agents

To answer my question, I pulled data on the last 5,000 transactions (totaling $3.2 billion in just under two years) in Arlington to find out how many agents were involved.

Remember that in each transaction there are usually two agents and for the sake of simplicity, if an agent represented both sides of a deal, they’re credited with two sales in these figures. Here’s a summary of what I found:

  • There were 3,139 total agents who worked on the last 5,000 transactions, with 2,287 different buyers agents and 1,904 different listing agents
  • 178, or 5.7 percent, of those agents closed ten or more of those deals
  • The 2,218 agents who closed one or two deals accounted for over $1.6 billion in sales or about 25 percent of sales volume (the $1.6B has to be divided by twice the $3.2 billion sales volume in Arlington to account for one agent on each side of the deal)
  • The top 1 percent of agents by total transactions accounted for just over $1 billion in sales or about 16 percent of sales volume
  • Only one agent represented over 100 buyers or 100 sellers (and you’ve probably seen her face on buses around the county)
  • Out of the agents who closed five or more deals, 46 of them averaged over $1 million per sale

Some Exceptions

Just because somebody has only done one or two deals in Arlington doesn’t mean they’re not a great agent, in fact, I see a number of solid agents on this list who I know from other markets in the D.C. metropolitan area. There’s also quite a few agents in the industry who transact simply for their own investments.

What Do You Think?

Given this information and the data points above, are you surprised at the number of agents operating in Arlington? Do you think having a low barrier to entry and minimal license maintenance requirements/costs is a good thing for the residential real estate industry or should it be more difficult and more expensive to operate as a licensed agent so that fewer agents are managing Arlington’s real estate market? Discuss!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor July 4, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

There’s no better place to be for July 4 than Arlington, perched above Washington D.C., celebrating America alongside the burial sites of the brave soldiers who gave their lives for our independence.

Enjoy watching the fireworks from your favorite lawn, balcony, rooftop, bridge, or wherever you may find yourself. I’m taking my adorable 3-year-old niece to Iwo Jima to see her first fireworks show, which should be a hit considering how much she loved visiting Gravelly Point to watch the planes land!

I imagine very few people will spend time this afternoon reading about real estate, so I’ll leave you with a reminder that this column is built on questions from you about how the Arlington/D.C. /Northern Virginia real estate market operates. Don’t hesitate to send me your real estate questions and I’ll do my best to offer an honest and informative response.

Happy Fourth of July, friends!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 27, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Where is it? Cherrydale is one of Arlington’s most sought-after neighborhoods, bounded by the intersection of Interstate 66 and Lee Highway to the east, N. Utah Street to the west, I-66 to the south, and Old Dominion Drive to the north, with an awkward configuration of boundaries just north of Old Dominion adding to it.

It is primarily served by Washington-Lee High School, with a small section north of Old Dominion districted to Yorktown High School. Cherrydale boasts a diverse housing selection, with a large number of single family homes dating back to the early 1900s mixed with homes from each decade, including new construction homes that have replaced smaller, aging homes.

In addition to single family homes, Cherrydale has some pockets of condos and townhomes. Most of Cherrydale is within a 15-minute walk of the Ballston or Virginia Square Metro stations.

About the interviewee: Jennifer Galloway and her husband moved to Cherrydale from a Ballston condo in 2016 to find community, more space and their target school district for their 10-month-old daughter. They moved into a beautifully renovated pop-top home that combined Jennifer’s love of older homes with her husband’s preference for new and were sold by the two beautiful magnolia trees in the backyard.

Hailing from Connecticut, Jennifer entered the D.C. scene working in politics and eventually leveraged her connections and fundraising experience to found the Wolcott Hill Group, a nonprofit consulting firm. Jennifer is a proud graduate of the 2016 Leadership Arlington cohort and 2016 “40 Under 40” winner.

What do you love about Cherrydale?

It’s such a close, supportive community. I think we’d met every one of our neighbors within the first month and everybody has been so helpful, which is invaluable for a young family like ours. We also love the generational mix in the community with everything from young families to retirees who have lived here for 40+ years.

My husband commutes into D.C. every day and I’m always going to appointments around the metropolitan area, so we both utilize the Metrobus system that runs through out the neighborhood and makes commuting easy.

Why did you move to Cherrydale?

We wanted to be in the Washington-Lee High School district and my husband needed a short commute into D.C., so we were focused on Cherrydale, Waverly Hills and Westover.

When we first started looking, we stopped by an open house in Cherrydale and ended up talking to the neighbor for a while. She told us they were considering a move, but loved the neighborhood so much that they invested in a major renovation/expansion of their home in order to stay in the neighborhood. That sold us.

What are some of your favorite places to go?

Our favorite restaurants are Cassats and Lebanese Taverna, which are both walkable. We spend a lot of time in nearby parks like Woodstock and Quincy Park and take walks along the Custis Trail. If you’ve never been to Arrow Wine, had pastries from Randolph’s, or empanadas from La Union Grocery, you have to go soon.

Are there any fun community events?

There’s a big July 4 block party every year at the top of N. Stafford Street with a George Washington impersonator who reads the Declaration of Independence. We also have an annual yard sale in the neighborhood that’s a lot of fun.

What do you think the next 10-15 years will bring for Cherrydale?

I’m sure we’ll continue seeing small, older homes replaced by larger new homes and a continuous flow of young families coming in. However, there are many families, like ours, who plan to raise their children in Cherrydale, so it will be exciting to see the community grow together over the years.

Thank you so much for your interview Jennifer! I’m sure this will help many families considering a move into or within Arlington who are looking for many of the same things your family wanted.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I just finished the home inspection for a single-family home I’m purchasing in South Arlington and there are about 40 items on it. Should I be nervous and consider walking away from the deal? What’s reasonable to expect from the seller?

Answer: Before you freak out about the list of issues the inspector found, I will say that for an older single family home, the number of items the inspector listed in the report is within the normal range of what I see. Unless you’re buying a new home, you should expect the inspection to turn up at least a handful of items that you or the seller should address.

What Is A Home Inspection?

Shortly after ratifying (signed by both parties) a contract to purchase a home, most buyers will (read: should) hire a third party inspector to inspect the entire home and produce a report of any issues, from foundation cracks to missing door stops.

In most cases, the contract to purchase is contingent on the home inspection, meaning the buyer has the right to ask the seller to fix or replace anything and/or provide a cash credit to the buyer at closing. If the buyer and seller are unable to come to an agreement on these requests, the buyer has the right to void the deal.

What Should You Look For?

The goal of an inspection is to ensure that the seller is delivering the property in the condition both sides expected while negotiating the sale price. Generally, you can divide findings into big-ticket items that impact the value of the home and must be addressed and smaller punch-list items that shouldn’t cause much friction. The big-ticket items I look for during an inspection are:

  • Structural flaws
  • Water penetration
  • Safety hazards
  • Inoperability (e.g. air conditioning not working)

System Life Expectancy

You should also determine the age of major systems like the roof, windows, HVAC and water heater prior to making your offer, and verify these are accurate during the inspection. Make sure you’re clear on the expected life expectancy of these systems while you’re negotiating the sales price and factor this information into your offer.

You’ll have a tough time convincing most sellers they’re on the hook for crediting you the cost of a 17-year-old water heater if that information was made available prior to your offer, assuming the system is working.

What Should You Ask For?

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll generally be deciding between asking the seller to handle the fix or replacement of something or asking for them to provide a credit at closing. Often times an inspection agreement includes both – a credit for some items and a request to fix/replace others. Sellers must use licensed contractors and provide works receipts for any work they do.

In general, if something you’re asking for involves personal preference or you want to have control over the quality of the result, it’s best to ask for a credit and handle it yourself. For example, if the deck is falling apart and needs to be replaced, you don’t want the seller managing the design and construction of a new deck so ask for a credit for the replacement cost and make sure you’re getting the deck you want.

Additionally, if the A/C system needs to be replaced and the seller has a mid-grade system, but you’d like to install a top-of-the-line A/C system, it’s best to request a credit equal to the replacement cost for a comparable mid-grade system and invest in the extra cost of a nicer system yourself.

Inspections Don’t Need To Be Contentious

Inspections are one of the most common points of contention between buyers and sellers, but with the right preparation and expectations going in, it can be a smooth process that both sides are happy with.

Like the negotiations you had on the sale contract, the inspection period is also a negotiation. Buyers should expect sellers to address big-ticket items and smaller items that are not classified as improvements/updates.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 13, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I really like the architectural style of older homes and feel like I can get a better deal by focusing on homes built more than 30 years ago. Can you provide me some data showing the number of homes old by age and any suggestions you have for a buyer shopping for an older home?

Answer: I also have a personal preference for older homes and love working with clients who have a taste for unique architectural styles! With a bit of vision and a good checklist of things to watch out for, buying an older home can offer real value. To avoid having your dream home turn into a money pit or safety hazard, here are some things you can do prior to purchasing your home to protect yourself:

  • Double up your inspection: You should always have your home inspected by a reputable inspector, but nobody is perfect, so it’s a good investment to have two sets of professional eyes on the home to ensure maximum coverage.
  • Don’t forget your chimney: A general inspection doesn’t include a full chimney inspection and chimneys tend to be one of the least maintained parts of a home, especially if the previous owner didn’t use the fireplace. A damaged chimney can be unsafe and expensive to fix.
  • Check the structural integrity: Old homes have weathered many storms (literally) and the chances they’ve experienced water penetration at some point is high, especially if it sits in a low-lying area where the ground is likely to hold more water. Talk to your inspector about whether or not it makes sense to have a structural engineer do an in-depth study of the foundation and other structural elements of the home.
  • Electrical testing: There’s a good chance an older home has gone through multiple rounds of electrical updates through a few different owners. You never know if a previous owner was a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades who fancied themselves a public servant by day and electrician by night. For the sake of your family, make sure a professional gets behind the walls to make sure everything looks good (wiring is safe, home is properly grounded, etc).
  • Insulation: One of the biggest downsides to older homes is poor insulation, especially if they still have older windows and roofing. Check the home for cold/hot spots, proper insulation installation, and seals around doors and windows.
  • Termites or other wood-destroying insects: Termite/wood-destroying insect inspections are very cheap and worth every penny. In Northern Virginia, sellers are responsible for repairing any termite damage.
  • Lead testing: In addition to testing for lead paint, you may consider testing your water for elevated levels of lead due to leaching from lead pipes or lead soldering, which wasn’t banned in the US until 1986.

Let’s take a quick look at the age of single-family homes sold in Arlington, by decade, from 2012-2016:

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com. 

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor June 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We are planning to sell our home and wondering if the cost of professional staging is worth it. What’s your opinion on staging and are there certain circumstances where you do or do not recommend it?

Answer: I recommend staging for almost every home I sell because it will increase your sale price by more than you spend and help your home sell faster. In fact, it makes such a difference that clients often joke after seeing their decluttered and staged home that they’re considering moving back in!

What Is Staging?

Professional staging is a service used to improve the marketability of a home by arranging rented furniture in certain rooms of a home to maximize the space and visual appeal. Most staging professionals have an interior design background and a large supply of furniture to work with.

Staging is mostly done when a home is vacant, but for sellers occupying the home they’re living in, stagers will also provide consultations on how to best utilize your existing furniture and make suggestions on small add-on items to enhance a space (area rugs, towels, flowers, wall art, etc).

How Much $$$?

Condos can usually be staged for $1,500-$2,500 and townhomes and single family homes generally cost $2,500-$4,000 depending on the number of rooms you stage and quality of furnishings. For high-end real estate, expect to spend $5,000-$10,000. You should plan on spending 0.5-1 percent of your asking price on staging a vacant home.

What Are The Advantages?

  • Better pictures = more interest online = more showing traffic
  • Significantly better showing experience for buyers
  • Empty space looks smaller, staging helps visually increase the size of a room
  • Buyers struggle to visualize how beds, couches, tables, etc will fit
  • Awkward spaces benefit from the design of a professional
  • Clean, organized look increases the sense of a well-maintained home
  • Play to the strengths of a room and distract from its flaws

When Should You Stage?

  • Move-in-ready condition (limited updates/investment required)
  • Vacant
  • Home has been thoroughly cleaned and freshened up as necessary (paint, replace damaged/ancient items, etc)
  • Using professional photography

Where’s The Proof?

You may see staging companies or agents make claims that staged properties return an “X” percent higher sale price or sell “X” days faster than unstaged properties, but the reality is these numbers are just convenient marketing figures with no real substance.

One of the challenges with statements like these in real estate is that you don’t have the ability to isolate something like staging and compare the success or failure of the same home sale with and without it. You have to rely on the experience of your agent to help with decisions like these.

My experience with staging comes from seeing the impact it has on homes I sell, but even more so, how buyers I work with react. There is a noticeable difference in how buyers react to staged homes versus empty or cluttered homes (lived in without regard for design) and this shows up in their preferences when they’re viewing properties online to decide what they want to see and then again when they’re actually in the property.

I generally take an opportunity to point this out to my clients so they understand how much of an impact staging has on their perception of a home, so they keep it in mind when it comes time for them to sell.

I’m Here To Help

If you’re considering selling and trying to decide which investments like staging, painting, and updated appliances will return more than they cost, feel free to reach out to set-up time for me to see your home and make some suggestions.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

I hope everybody had a great Memorial Day Weekend. I enjoyed watching and hearing Rolling Thunder ride through Arlington and had some of the best brisket I’ve ever tasted at Texas Jack’s Barbecue. Thank you to all who have served and currently served our great country.

I am looking for more volunteers to be interviewed for my Arlington Neighborhood Profile series. If you love where you live and want to share your hidden secrets and passion for your neighborhood, I’d like to feature you and your neighborhood in an upcoming column. In the past, ARLnow readers have thoroughly enjoyed profiles of Claremont, Arlingtonwood, Bluemont, and Rosslyn.

Reasons you should email me:

  • You LOVE your Arlington neighborhood
  • The interview doesn’t take much time
  • You’ll get a free cup of coffee out of it
  • You’ll be Arlington-famous like Remy Munasifi
  • You choose when and where we meet

If you’re interested, please email me at [email protected]. Thanks!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 23, 2017 at 3:15 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Square footage seems randomly reported on different websites. Why is that and what is it supposed to include? Is the math on $/sqft the same across all sizes or is there a diminishing return at a certain point where more square footage doesn’t translate into more value?

Answer: Total square footage, above grade square footage, and $/sqft are some of the most common criteria and valuation metrics used in real estate, but square footage is also one of the most inconsistent data points we have. For purposes of this column, I will talk in terms of finished square footage used in real estate sales. County appraisers include unfinished space (e.g. storage, garage, decks) at a discounted rated in their tax assessment calculations.

How Is Square Footage Calculated?

I haven’t come across a published definition of how Arlington calculates finished/livable square footage, but in speaking with county tax appraisers it’s considered interior space with finished flooring and walls, and part of the home’s heating and cooling systems. I believe ceiling height (minimum 7 feet) is a factor as well. It does not include garages, decks, attics, or raw storage. It does include closets and bathrooms that are part of finished areas of the home.

Square footage is measured from the framing or exterior walls, so often times the County’s square footage is higher than the usable square footage inside the finished walls of a home.

What Do Most Websites Use?

MRIS, which is the database of record used by REALTORS and where most consumer-facing websites pull data, contains a few fields for square footage.

Taxable Living Area: Pulled from the tax record for above-grade (above ground) finished square footage. It’s a bit of a misnomer because it does not include taxable living space in the lower level(s) of a home.

Above/Below Grade Finished: This is an optional field entered by the Agent to calculate total square footage

Above/Below Grade Unfinished: This is an option field entered by the Agent and does not impact total square footage

Total Finished: Sum of above and below grade finished square footage, if entered by Agent

In my experience, most consumer-facing websites will use the total finished square footage if it’s available and default to the above-grade square footage from the tax record if it is not. Zillow seems to do the best job of pulling from multiple public data sources to get total square footage, even if the Agent hasn’t entered it into MRIS. On the other hand, Zillow allows homeowners and Agents to edit this data. Most square footage readings entered into MRIS by Agents are based on measurements between finished walls, not from the framing.

Common Data Problems

Be careful using square footage to define search criteria or for home valuations because the data can be flawed. Here are some common issues I run into:

Total square footage not entered: If an Agent doesn’t enter data for above and/or below grade finished square footage, the total square footage field is a null value.

New homes: In most cases new construction has a taxable living area in MRIS (from tax record) of zero or if it was a tear-down, it likely has the square footage of the original home which is generally much smaller.

Split Levels/Foyers: Split Levels and Split Foyers were a common design in the 1960s-1980s and usually about half of the total square footage of the home is considered lower level or below grade. In most cases, the square footage number pulled by MRIS from the tax record is only the upper level and thus only about half of the total size is automatically listed.

Additions: If a home has an unpermitted addition or the tax record was never updated, the MRIS taxable square footage will be low and unless the total square footage was entered, the extra space won’t show up.

Condos and townhomes are generally much more reliable when using square footage as a criteria/valuation factor than single family homes.

Price per Square Foot To Compare Values

$/sqft can be an effective valuation tool when you’re assured that the square footage values you’re using in your calculations are accurate and when you’re comparing properties of similar size.  For example, a 600sqft condo selling for $350,000 is nearly $600/sqft while a $2 million single family home with 6,500sqft is just over $300/sqft. Most condos trade in the $400-$700/sqft range and most single family homes trade in the $200s.

I generally avoid using $/sqft when valuing single family homes because the prevalence of inconsistent data introduces too much risk. However, $/sqft can be an effective valuation tool for condos and townhomes, especially when comparing values within the same community where fees and square footage measurements are consistent across each unit.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com. 

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We want to upgrade our home with ‘smart’ technology but aren’t sure if it makes sense since we plan to sell our home in about a year. We’d feel better about doing so if it will increase the value of our home. Will these updates get us a higher price when it’s time to sell?

Answer: I see hundreds of homes each year and I’ve noticed only a slight increase in Arlington owners and renters using smart home devices. While supply is low for homes equipped with automated technology, evidence and buyer feedback points to increased interest in these homes and a slight bump in sale price, too.

What makes a home smart?

A smart home integrates three or more Internet of Things devices to solve daily tasks through automation, often working interdependently to complete them without human assistance. These devices are usually wirelessly connected to automate, control and monitor home functions like adjusting the temperature, grilling food, warming a mattress, dimming and turning off lights, checking on a video feed of your sleeping baby and feeding your pet.

Are buyers interested in smart technology in the home?

A recent Gartner survey of consumers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia shows 10 percent of households take advantage of connected home solutions. Reasons for the lower adoption are varied: the perceived pain of the tech learning curve, the steady influx of new devices, and IoT privacy and security concerns.

In the US, adoption rates are higher:

By far the most popular devices are home security alarm systems, which have nearly double the adoption rates (18 percent) of newer connected home solutions, like home monitoring (11 percent), home automation or energy management (9 percent)… adoption rates were 5 to 6 percent higher in the U.S., where smart home devices were mostly first marketed.

You might think that smart homes are primarily valued by Millennials, but researchers are finding that home automation broadly appeals to Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, with Gen Xers spending the most money.

Will A Smart Home Technology Investment Pay Off When It’s Time to Sell?

I have a similar answer to this question as I do with a number of other home improvement projects. Yes, a smart home investment is likely to improve value, but it’s unlikely to return you 100 percent or more of your investment. Your decision to purchase smart home technology should factor both a bump in resale value and the personal value it brings to your family while you live there.

The type of smart home technology you choose will matter too. Selecting popular products like lights, thermostats, door lock, security systems, and cameras can be highlighted during showings and are generally pretty easy to control, which result in positive buyer reactions. However, I’ve visited a few homes with complex designs and unusual products, which ended up deterring my clients because of the presumed headache and cost of maintaining the system.

Thinking about renting out your property?

Renters are very interested in smart homes and I think this is one of the best ways for home-owners to compete for renters with higher end rental apartments. Millennial renters who live in multi-family dwellings were surveyed last fall about housing preferences. Eighty-six percent would pay more for a “smart” rental.  Sixty-five percent of Baby Boomers in the same survey indicated they would do the same. Furthermore, it was revealed that Millennial renters would pay about 20 percent more for smart home features; and 44 percent would trade a parking space to live in a “high-tech” apartment.

Has Smart Home Technology Influenced Your Purchase?

I’d like to hear from readers who have either been drawn to or turned away from a home with a smart technology package. If you’ve been a buyer in recent years and smart technology was a factor in your decision, I’d like to hear about it in the comments!

If you’re interested in seeing a smart home in action, I recently took a tour of the Alarm.com demonstration house in Falls Church, just off W. Broad Street. Send me an email if you’re interested in seeing the home and I can put you in touch with somebody from the team.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor May 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How does the price range of the home for sale affect the speed of the sale?

Answer: Last week I published statistics showing how quickly homes in Arlington sell (20 percent in the first five days, 50 percent in the first 30 days) and received a follow-up question in the comments asking how price impacts days on market. Here’s your response!

Data Description

The following data represents more than 15,000 sales in Arlington since January 1, 2012, broken out by sold price within the three primary housing types in Arlington – apartments/condos, townhomes and single-family/detached homes.

Key Findings

  • The middle price ranges sell fastest, with the cheapest and most expensive inventory in each housing type taking the longest to sell
  • Townhomes are in the most demand and sell two and a half weeks faster than other housing types
  • If you’re selling an apartment or single family over $1 million, be patient with your pricing and don’t worry if you don’t get your asking price immediately. It usually takes some time for those buyers to materialize.
  • Yes, there were actually nine single-family homes that sold for under $300,000 in Arlington (eight in 22204 and one in 22206)

I always appreciate hearing from readers in the comments section and via email. If you have any questions about the Arlington real estate market, please do not hesitate to post them in the comments or send me an email to [email protected]

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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